How often have we asked that very question? In the absence of a teacher or adult being present and a bus driver who is focusing on driving and not what is happening at every moment in the rear view mirror we often are left to guess what really happened on a school bus. How do we get to the truth of what happened? Well there is some help for schools in PA. Last year the Governor signed into law Act 56-2016 which permits the use of audio recording on school buses for the purposes of discipline and school safety.
This is an expansion of the previously approved video recording on buses for school safety but it does have some very specific requirements:
- The school board must adopt a written policy specific to bus surveillance and its uses.
- Notification of the audio recording must appear in student handbooks and on the district website
- Clear signage on each bus with audio recording equipment must be posted to inform passengers of the audio recording.
Please note there has been one significant change from the previous Act; the requirement to send a letter home to families each year regarding audio recording has been rescinded.
This is a great tool to help school administrators get to the truth of what was done and said on buses when issues of discipline or safety are at risk. However, with every tool there can be some negative implications. Audio recorders don’t discriminate between bus drivers, parent chaperons, staff and students; everybody gets recorded. It is critical that both our students and adult riders and drivers maintain an awareness that they are being recorded and their words could come back to bite them.
If I was the decision maker regarding audio recording on buses, I would definitely consider this option. Too much is happening on our buses and this extra tool could really help get to the root issues when trouble arises.
Until next time this is John Baker for safetysolutions4schools.com.